Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Will Botswana ever qualify for AFCON?

The current edition of AFCON is represented by three countries from the Southern African region and Botswana is not part of those teams.

Botswana has never qualified for the Africa Cup of Nations since its inception 53 years ago and has always been knocked out from the word go.

On the other hand, teams that have had the bashing of Botswana have made several appearances at the tournament.
Current typical example is Malawi that Botswana beat home and away for 2006 of both AFCON and the World Cup. Malawi have so far been impressive in the tournament because they have won a game and lost one and they are using almost the same squad Botswana used to terrorise.

Namibia also qualified for AFCON twice. The first time it was in 1998 and they did it again ten years down the line.

Namibia are Botswana’s daily bread because they rarely defeat Botswana be it an official match or a friendly one.
The closest Botswana came to qualifying was during the qualifications of the 2008 AFCON when Botswana lost on the last day of the qualifications. It was in 2007 when Botswana went to play in Egypt and needed a win to make a historic appearance.

All odds were staked against Botswana because they played their final game in Egypt who were the defending champions.
Botswana nearly surprised the world when they soldiered on and even had chances of winning the match but Egypt ended up winning the match, scoring the only goal about eleven minutes before full time.

At that time when Botswana nearly made it to the 2008 AFCON, there was an emerging Under 23 that looked promising.

The team made strides by defeating nations Botswana never defeated before. Firstly, the team for the first time bowed out in the last game before the 2007 All Africa Games. They also qualified for the group stages of the Olympics and beat nations like Tunisia, Morocco and Guinea.

With the national team progressing and a strong Under 23 that should have been the feeder, one would have thought Botswana was on the right track, especially for the AFCON 2010.
It was not to be as Botswana failed to even make it to the second phase of the qualifiers.

On the other hand, the technical officer of the Botswana Football Association, Philemon Makhwengwe, told The Sunday Standard that Botswana is in a position to qualify for AFCON. He said although there are shortcomings, everything depends on the technical team in charge of the team.

“Let’s be honest, the gap between Botswana and some established soccer nations is not that big. We have on several occasions beaten some of those countries and, with the others, we do it often. This then tells you that Botswana can make it to AFCON. The onus is now on those in charge of the team. I am adamant that Botswana can make it with the support of all the stake holders involved,” he said.

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The Telegraph September 23

Digital edition of The Telegraph, September 23, 2020.